Read More: After 70 Years, Still Going Strong
February 28, 2019

Helicopter Association International (HAI) has been going strong for 70 years, representing the international helicopter community and its efforts to build a safe, sustainable industry. HAI remains focused on its primary mission: to support our members so they can “keep the rotors turning.” We do this by advocating against overburdensome regulations and legislation, and by supporting a safe, efficient operating environment that is economically sustainable.

Since HAI’s founding, our industry has proven its value to society time and again. The list of helicopter missions has expanded to include firefighting, helicopter air ambulance, search and rescue, electronic news gathering, building and maintaining the international power grid, disaster relief, and law enforcement, to name a few.

As our industry has matured, we have come to recognize that simple compliance with regulations, while essential, is not enough. Most regulations define the minimum expectations of safety and professionalism. HAI continues to advocate for the adoption of higher standards by our industry as an expression of our social and moral responsibility to the public, our customers and passengers, and our co-workers.

It is essential that we “do the right thing” when conducting our operations—always. Yes, safety is our No. 1 priority, but doing the right thing also includes mitigating our impact on the communities we fly over and operate within.

In the past decade, we have been lucky to be part of a major watershed moment for our industry: the advent of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. HAI is focused on the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into an already-busy airspace.

Both industry and government are working to establish the appropriate technology, operating protocols, and safeguards for this new sector of aviation, and I believe we will be successful. UAS have already proven their utility in a variety of missions, and more innovations are on the horizon, such as eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft for urban air taxis.

I am, however, concerned about our ability to create the required infrastructure for these new ventures, such as takeoff and landing sites and access to airspace. Many ambitious proposals for air taxi operations have been unveiled, but it is unclear how the accompanying infrastructure will be developed.

The biggest obstacle facing the growth of the urban air mobility sector is the current regulatory and legislative climate, promoted by well-organized opponents of helicopter aviation, that pushes to restrict aircraft and heliport operations. If we ignore this reality and challenge, we do so at our own peril.

People who oppose helicopter operations mention noise and safety, but the issues are in fact complex, multifaceted, and beyond noise and safety. HAI is ready to sponsor and join in a robust discussion of these issues and to do our part to ensure a successful implementation of this new, exciting rotorcraft sector.

I would appreciate your thoughts regarding our current efforts. More importantly, if you have any additional issues or concerns that you would like HAI to address, please let me know.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think at

As always, fly safe, fly neighborly—and keep those rotors turning! 

Best Regards,
Matt Zuccaro

Read More: Introducing Ourselves to a New Congress
February 28, 2019

Let's build on our effective advocacy for the helicopter industry.

The 116th US Congress is now gaveled in and tackling our nation’s problems. Your government is hard at work on your behalf.

Did you just roll your eyes at the thought that Congress understands your daily struggles and what you go through to keep the lights on at home or for your business? Be honest.

Reading the headlines about shutdowns, it may be a bit of a herculean task to believe that any good can come out of Washington. But it’s a new year, and I haven’t yet broken my resolutions (the brownie I had at lunch was small, so it didn’t count).

Considering the successes that we had with the 115th Congress, let’s approach the new year with optimism. Let’s quickly review why 2018 was such a good year for our industry on Capitol Hill.

HAI’s 2018 Legislative Wins

HAI was deeply involved in advocating for the helicopter industry while legislators were hammering out the details of the five-year FAA reauthorization bill that passed Congress in October. Our work produced substantive ROI for the helicopter industry in the many provisions in the bill with real-world impact on members’ businesses:

  • HAI ensured that the legislation gave the industry opportunities to provide input on and participate in the creation of upcoming FAA regulations
  • HAI secured specific language that included helipads as eligible projects in airport construction or improvement initiatives
  • Important safety provisions for crash-resistant fuel systems were implemented to comply with recommendations from the FAA’s Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group, which HAI staff members participated in
  • HAI helped secure the inclusion of drone policies that would safely accelerate their integration into the National Airspace System, including requirements for remote identification
  • HAI helped to include in the bill important aviation workforce development programs that will provide resources and grants to increase the number of pilots and mechanics in the industry
  • HAI helped push through language to modernize Part 147 training programs, providing new business opportunities for HAI members.

In other 2018 advocacy wins, HAI stopped legislation that would have capped veterans’ flight benefits for helicopter training. And let’s not forget our largest victory of the 115th Congress, when general aviation stepped up and stopped the privatization of the US air traffic control system.

The Blueprint for Success

Looking back, our industry had a very successful year. Where will this success and optimism take us in the 116th Congress?

You may have been right to roll your eyes when I said Congress was solving your problems. However, if they don’t know about your problems, how can they help?

That is why HAI’s work on Capitol Hill is so important. Advocacy is the mechanism by which HAI and its members communicate with Congress. We share our stories on the legislative and regulatory pinch-points that negatively impact our businesses and stand in the way of our success. We educate Congress on legislation that can help our industry grow. We help develop policies that will ensure a healthy, competitive, and level playing field.

I’ve made it a point to visit local HAI members whenever I get outside of the Beltway bubble to attend a conference or engage in state legislative work. In these invaluable meetings, members educate me on the legislative issues causing roadblocks for them and we strategize together on ways to address their concern.

One issue that I keep hearing about is that operators are having trouble finding qualified mechanics and pilots. As you may know, HAI’s charitable arm, Helicopter Foundation International (HFI), recently undertook a study with the University of North Dakota (UND) to validate the long-standing assertion that the United States is not producing pilots and mechanics in sufficient numbers. The 2018 HFI-UND study found that in just over 15 years, the industry will face a shortage of more than 7,400 helicopter pilots and over 40,000 mechanics.

In addition to documenting the projected shortage, the study gathered information on how it is already changing operations. For example, more than 50 percent of surveyed operators said that the shortage of pilots and mechanics would definitely or probably interfere with their operation’s ability to grow over the next five years.

This workforce shortage issue is real, and you may be already feeling its effects. HAI began to address this issue from a legislative perspective in the FAA reauthorization bill, which contains a grant program to fund workforce development programs for pilots and mechanics.

This grant program came about because we talked to Congress about the problem and offered a potential solution. They listened and included the program in the bill.

I admit, it was a bit more complicated than that. There was a lot of work that had to be done educating Congress about the issue. But in fact, that is how the process is supposed to work. Our industry defines a problem, identifies a solution, and provides our congressional representatives with solid, realistic, actionable solutions to the problem. In this case, we presented a compelling argument that the United States needs a sustainable aviation workforce, and Congress agreed. Granted, this one program is not a silver bullet for the workforce development issue, but it is a start.

HAI is also working directly with the states to address the workforce shortage. HAI and its Utah-based members are working with that state’s governor, Gary Herbert, and his staff on setting up a rotorcraft pathways educational program that will bring new students into the industry. This exciting initiative is moving forward because HAI contacted the Utah governor’s office and met with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox to discuss workforce issues. We jointly identified a potential solution and are now working together to find success.

Help Government Understand Your Needs

How can we accomplish this—working with Congress and state governments to solve our problems—on a regular basis?
For this to occur, we must educate our elected officials on the issues that are confronting us and then be willing to provide potential solutions that we can work on together. These folks are busy and have a lot on their plate (like running the state of Utah, for instance). Don’t assume that they know your pain points, let alone how to solve them.

Policy, legislative, or regulatory language may have unintended (and sometimes intended) negative consequences on our businesses. Grassroots advocacy is our tool to reach out to our elected officials and show them how they can make a difference and provide positive solutions.

The 116th Congress as well as most state legislative sessions are now in full swing. They have many issues confronting them, and constituents representing all different perspectives are clamoring for attention. Get to know your elected officials. Make sure your issues get on their radar.

You are business owners and operators; you provide economic solutions and benefits to the people they represent. Your perspective and insights matter. Make a goal this year to host your elected official at your business. Let them see all you do and what you provide to your local community.

Don’t know where to start? That’s why you have an association. Reach out to me at, and I will gladly help you set up a visit.

To expand our advocacy outreach, we are building on the success of our campaign to prevent ATC privatization. If you haven’t done so previously, text ROTOR to 40649 to sign up and stay up-to-date on legislation affecting the helicopter industry.

As your association, HAI represents the helicopter industry to government officials. Together, let’s make 2019 another year of effective advocacy! 

Read More: ROTOR Wash: HAI Briefs
February 28, 2019

Hold on … HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 is WHEN?

Attendees and exhibitors should start planning and budgeting for HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim now, because it’s already less than a year away. HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 will take place a few weeks earlier than normal, January 27–30, 2020, with the exhibit floor open January 28–30.

As you probably know, HAI rotates the location of the show, moving each year between large convention centers in a select group of cities. This gives industry operators and other companies the chance to participate in an Expo “in their own backyard” every few years. For 2020, it’s time to visit the West Coast of the United States.

HAI typically hosts its annual trade show in the southern tier of the United States, where the weather is more likely to cooperate for fly-ins and fly-outs. Surpris­ingly, Anaheim is the only convention center on the West Coast with the 1 million square feet of exhibit floor and meeting space required to put on HAI HELI-EXPO®, the world’s largest helicopter trade show and exposition.

Anaheim is historically one of the most popular destinations for HAI HELI-EXPO attendees. The combination of weather, world-class attractions, easy access, and unbeatable industry networking and education will make for a productive and memorable show.

So plan to come to HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 a bit earlier than usual. Start your year and decade strong in warm, sunny, fun Anaheim.

Read More: "The Challenge We Have Across Aviation is Dealing with Automation"
February 28, 2019

A challenge for Earl Lawrence, who took over as the FAA’s new Executive Director for Aircraft Certification in early December, is dealing with new technology—in both manned and unmanned aircraft, and especially in the National Airspace System, where the two will meet. ROTOR asked Lawrence about those big challenges ahead.

How will your shop help the helicopter industry comply with the 18-month window for crash-resistant fuel systems equipage set by the 2018 FAA bill?

Lawrence: It’s a tough deadline for us all. But I think that as long as both industry and the FAA keep focused on the safety missions we’re trying to achieve, we’ll do well. What we’re focused on here in our aircraft certification offices is really expediting, or putting to the top of the list, any of the projects that we have for certification or validation.

By not moving more quickly to approve IFR equipage in single-engine helicopters, have we missed an opportunity to improve safety?

Yes, it is a missed opportunity. We are working hard to figure out a way we can take advantage of that opportunity now and improve safety in those aircraft. As with anything, it’s not easy. Some of those opportunities require rule changing, which takes time. Other things we can do with policy and procedure changes. We’re looking to use those where we can.

What are your takeaways from the FAA reauthorization bill as it pertains to certification reform?

Congress, the FAA, and the industry are all on the same page. Congress is asking us not just to streamline our certification processes, but as much as possible, to allow the manufacturers enough latitude to certify their products faster. But at the same time, they’re telling the FAA we also must create a system of checks and balances, a system that is based on performance objectives and metrics.

What level of technology will the FAA require to allow UAS, or drones, to regularly operate beyond line of sight? 

There are beyond visual line-of-sight operations done every day in the United States already. But they are being done by professionals under a good set of procedures that we find acceptable in ensuring that there will not be a midair collision. Drone operators need the same level of training and rigor that other professional operators in the same airspace get.

When people in conventional aviation hear about the thousands of flying cars that will be operating “very soon,” they feel those reports underestimate the complexities involved. What will it take to make that happen? 

We’ve got to go back to the core issue: we don’t want to have midair collisions. So what are the things you can do to prevent that midair collision? For many missions you don’t need detect-and-avoid. At least we don’t need a box that does that. You do need detect-and-avoid in a broader system that will continue to include humans.

Aircraft certification is not looking around for some magical device because there is no magical device that solves it all. People are involved in this. And we have procedures and rules that that will always be part of it. It’s going to be a system. 

Read More: Robinson Rocks Customer Service
February 28, 2019

It’s official: The Robinson Helicopter Company knows a thing or two about customer service.

A company that produces only three models of helicopters, Robinson recently achieved a milestone by being recognized by Vertical magazines’s 2018 Helicopter and Engine Manufacturers Survey as having the highest customer service satisfaction ratings within the helicopter manufacturing industry.

Listening and responding to Robinson operators is one of the primary factors in the company’s high customer service marks. Its customer service team treats all owners and operators equally, regardless of whether they have one helicopter or a fleet.

“Sales is the just the beginning of a relationship,” offers Kurt Robinson, company president and chairman. “You put the trust in us to buy our helicopter, and so we will absolutely support it.” 

Read More: The Raider Rises
February 28, 2019

Is a bird in hand really worth two in the bush? Sikorsky Helicopters and its parent, Lockheed Martin, certainly are betting that way.

They’re wagering heavily that their 2010 Collier Trophy–winning X2 rigid coaxial compound helicopter design, flying since May 2015 aboard their S-97 Raider technology demonstrator, will be worth more to the US Army than two (actually up to five) other unconventional but not-yet-flying aircraft that competitors may offer the army.

Read More: What's New at HAI HELI-EXPO in Atlanta
February 28, 2019

HAI HELI-EXPO® has become a must-attend event in the helicopter industry. The show annually brings the helicopter industry together for four days of meetings, education, and networking. And of course, there’s always lots of excitement on a show floor packed with more than 700 exhibitors displaying the latest aircraft, engines, avionics, and everything an aviation business needs. 

This year, HAI has added some new content to help keep you updated on the latest trends in the industry. From new Professional Education courses and Rotor Safety Challenge sessions to helicopter trendsetters at HAI Connect and a fresh take on the Salute to Excellence Awards—Atlanta will not disappoint. 

Welcome to Atlanta!

HAI HELI-EXPO visits the Gateway to the South for the first time, and there’s plenty of reason for visitors to get excited. Having just hosted Super Bowl LIII in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the city is big enough for HAI HELI-EXPO, with attractions, museums, and history for everyone. The College Football Hall of Fame, the site of the HAI HELI-EXPO 2019 Welcome Reception, is on the east side of the Georgia World Congress Center complex. A few blocks away are the Coca-Cola museum and the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. A visit to the Martin Luther King National Historical Park is one option, as is a visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Visit for more suggestions or information.

Salute to Excellence Luncheon
Wednesday, March 6, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

For more than 50 years, HAI has recognized the outstanding achievements and exceptional merit of individuals and organizations in the international helicopter community. This annual awards event has been moved to the lunch hour, just steps from the show floor so it’s easy to attend this premier event of HAI HELI-EXPO. Tickets can be purchased online when you register for HAI HELI-EXPO or on-site at Attendee Registration.

New Convention Center

HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 will be held in Halls B and C of the Georgia World Congress Center, the fourth-largest convention center in the United States. There will be a connector between the two halls so attendees can travel between the halls in comfort. And the connector isn’t just a way to get from B to C—there will also be food options, seating areas, and music.
Take advantage of the photo booth in Hall B, located between meeting rooms B209 and B210, where you can capture—and easily share—your memories from HAI HELI-EXPO 2019.

Welcome Reception at College Football Hall of Fame
Monday, March 4, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

The HAI HELI-EXPO Welcome Reception is always a good time, but this year will be special for all attendees who are fans of college football. Sponsored by Bell, the reception will take place at the College Football Hall of Fame, across the street from the Georgia World Congress Center. Have fun with your colleagues as you debate the greatest college football program of all time. There is also an indoor playing field where you can demonstrate your skills.

New HAI Professional Education Courses

HAI Professional Education courses are scheduled before or after the show. The courses are taught by industry experts and designed specifically for helicopter professionals; tracks include safety, pilot skills, operations, maintenance, inspection authorization renewal, and career development. Professional Education courses require a separate registration, in addition to your HAI HELI-EXPO registration. You can view the complete Professional Education schedule at Read on to learn about our most exciting new courses.

Part 107 UAS Ground School
Sunday, March 3, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

There’s no denying that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become a growing part of the industry. For the first time, HAI is offering a Part 107 ground school that prepares attendees to take and pass an FAA Part 107 knowledge test, which enables them to operate small UAS. Previous aeronautical knowledge certainly helps, but this course does not require experience.

Underwater Egress Procedures and EBD Familiarization
Monday, March 4, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

If your aircraft crashed in water, would you know how to escape? This course—held at the Georgia World Congress Center for half the day, and at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel pool for the other half—provides all personnel working or traveling on or over water with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to egress aircraft in a ditching emergency while deploying an emergency breathing device (EBD). 

But Wait … There’s More

Don’t miss these other great new courses:

  • Aviation Safety Programs and Emergency Preparedness, Saturday, March 2, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • The Emotionally Effective Leader, Saturday, March 2, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Introduction to Vertical Reference Long-Line and External Cargo Training, Saturday, March 2, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Helicopter Flight Instructor Refresher Course, Sunday, March 3, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Introduction to the Dirty Dozen Contributing Factors, Sunday, March 3, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Integrating UAS into Your Current Operation, Monday, March 4, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

New HFI Rotor Safety Challenge Sessions

The HFI Rotor Safety Challenge offers a slate of safety education sessions, free to registered HAI HELI-EXPO attendees and exhibitors. This year’s Challenge is sponsored by MD Helicopters. Many Rotor Safety Challenge events are eligible for FAA WINGS and AMT program credits. Plan your day now with the full schedule at

The 2019 Rotor Safety Challenge features some new sessions, including: 

John and Martha King: Avoiding Unwanted Helicopter Adventures
Tuesday, March 5, 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

After an aircraft accident and discovering their own sense of vulnerability, John and Martha say they have become “born-again pilots.” The Kings use humor and stories from real-world cross-country experience to vividly illustrate principles of risk management and pass along practical and insightful tools you will use forever.

Other New Safety Sessions

Be sure to attend these other exciting new sessions:

  • Increase Focus to Increase Safety, Tuesday, March 5, 10:30 am – 11:30 am
  • Special Instrument Procedures and Increased Risk Management, Wednesday, March 6, 9:15 am – 10:15 am
  • Safety: Neither a Goal Nor a Priority, Tuesday, March 5, 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm
  • Helicopter Ditching and Egress: Evaluate, Prepare, Perform, Tuesday, March 5, 9:15 am – 10:15 am; Wednesday, March 6, 8:00 am – 9:00 am
  • Safely Managing Helipads, Wednesday, March 6, 8:00 am – 9:00 am

New Events at HAI Connect

HAI Connect (#B5014 ) is a space that hosts special events, meetups, interviews, and networking opportunities on a range of subjects relevant to you. This event space is right on the show floor, so be sure to check the schedule often on the monitors at HAI Connect and in the show app.

Chuck Aaron: Get Inspired – a Career in the Helicopter Industry
Tuesday, March 5, 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm

A living legend in the helicopter industry, Chuck Aaron knows his stuff. Join him in HAI Connect for an overview of careers and opportunities in the helicopter industry. 

Read More: Simulator Training Hits Its Stride
February 28, 2019

For many years, the helicopter industry has seen simulator training as something the big operations do. Yes, the top-of-the-line Level D simulators do provide a great training environment. But it also costs a great deal to rent these devices, if one is even available for your aircraft.

Many in our industry prefer to conduct all training in an aircraft. “I want my training to be as realistic as possible,” said one pilot I spoke with, “and what could be more realistic than training in an actual helicopter?”
Actually, training in a simulated environment offers a host of benefits for pilots and operators, including enhanced realism. And the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to reap those benefits.

Read More: Sergei Sikorsky: Born to Aviation
February 28, 2019

With a background in aviation going back to his birth, Sergei Sikorsky’s career traces the development of helicopters and the global aviation industry, despite his almost being sidetracked into medicine.

Sergei, now 94, discussed his life and career in an interview with Martin J. Pociask, retired curator of Helicopter Foundation International. You can watch the entire interview online at

Family Footsteps

Sergei is the son of aviation and helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky, who designed the first viable helicopter in 1939, the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300. A talented aeronautical engineer, the Russian-born Igor also designed the world’s first successful four-engine airplane in 1913. Before the 1917 Russian Revolution, Igor had a company Sergei says “would today be the equivalent of combining maybe Boeing and Douglas.”

With Europe recovering from four years of war and Russia in turmoil, Igor fled to the United States in 1919, living “in a $12-a-month flophouse in Manhattan” and supporting himself by lecturing on mathematics and physics. But by 1923 he managed to form an aircraft company bearing his name.

Sergei was born in 1925 and, in his words, “fell in love with aviation at a very early age.” He started building model planes around age six, and he recounts an early memory of the rollout of the legendary Pan Am clipper. 

Sergei recalls flying in his father’s lap in the co-pilot seat of a Sikorsky S-38 Amphibian. Visits from some of the greats of early aviation were common in his childhood, including Charles Lindbergh (Sergei recalls playing with his children), Pan Am founder Juan Tripp, Pan Am’s first head of flight operations André Priester, aviation pioneer Roscoe Turner, World War I fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker, and Jimmy Doolittle, the American aviator who led the development of instrument flight.

Learning the Ropes

In 1909, recognizing the limitations of the technology at the time, Igor abandoned his research on helicopters, concentrating instead on fixed-wing aircraft. Fortunately, he later revisited his research in vertical flight. 
Sergei recalls one afternoon in 1938 “when my father returned home from a critical meeting with the board of directors of United Aircraft and told us that his helicopter project had been approved.”

Visiting the United Aircraft factory in the late 1930s, Sergei became intrigued “by a small little helicopter that was taking shape in the corner of the seaplane hangar.” Sergei worked with Igor, including making small balsa helicopter models and sketches of future helicopters conducting various missions, for his father to show to engineers.

Sergei handled a number of jobs as the pioneering Sikorsky VS-300 came into service around 1940, including greasing the main rotor and tail rotor fittings. Bearings in main rotor hubs would shoot grease out, which did not bode well for the parade of visitors to the factory.

As Sergei remembers, “When we didn’t like somebody, we would always say, ‘You don’t have to go back too far. You could stand up pretty close—very moderate rotor downwash.’ And sometimes that person believed it, stood up fairly close when the helicopters took off, and got himself a grease bath. It was not very polite, but at that time we weren’t very polite.”

The Sikorskys warned those they liked to stand back at least 50 feet, he says.

Sergei stresses that his father was adamant about not being named the inventor of the helicopter.

“Whenever he was told that he was the father of the helicopter, my father would insist, ‘No, the father of the helicopter is Professor Henrich Focke who built the very first practical machine capable of flying 250 miles, capable of climbing to 11,000 and 12,000 feet of altitude and endurances of 2½ and 3½ hours.’” Igor, he says, “would grudgingly admit to the fact that he solved the challenge over the single main lifting rotor and a small anti-torque rotor, which he made with the VS-300.”